Friday, December 30, 2005

A Blessing on Her Head (Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov...)

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(A twist on the more-famous version from Fiddler on the Roof)

"A blessing on her head
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
My friend's daughter is to be wed
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
She just got herself engaged
Among friends that's all the rage
To become a Mr. and Mrs.

"The chattan's really nice
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
So the kallah's parents don't think twice
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
They're pleased she'll be his wife
And together they'll start a life
As Mr. and Mrs.

"The kallah's really sweet
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
As a daughter-in-law she'll be a treat
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
It's very clear to see
These two are meant to be
As Mr. and Mrs.

"The chupah's fairly soon
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
Followed by a honeymoon...
(mazel tov, mazel tov)
Just simchas should abound
When happiness is found
As Mr. and Mrs."


Mazel tov to both families. The wedding should be b'shaah tovah u'mutzlechet.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bli Neder*

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* Without a vow. (Hebrew)

This is what people say when they make promises: "I will cut back on my blogging and will be more conscious of using my free time more wisely...bli neder." This is telling you that I will try my utmost (should no conflicting circumstances arise) to mean what I say and fulfill my promise.

I don't like to make promises as a rule just because I'm afraid that sometimes I'll be thrown a curve ball, and incidents beyond my control will prevent me from following through on the promise. I don't like to be deemed a liar and I also hate to disappoint people.

So generally I say, "I'll try to..." or to my children I won't give a definite answer sometimes, but will respond with "We'll see" or "I hope we can..."

I did make a promise once to cousins that I would take them to the zoo. I never forgot that promise and it slowly ate away at me, feeding off my guilt. Okay, so it turned out that fulfilling that promise took about 10 years, but at least I honored my word!

Now, as I look back on 2005 and think about my resolutions that I put down on my computer screen for all the world to see, I think, "Damn, I should've added 'bli neder' to every resolution!"

Let's review:

First there were health club issues, ie. I'd joined one in the fall of 2004 and by New Year's had only gone less than a dozen times. My goal was to make it part of my daily regimen. I FAILED!!!

* Follow through with what I set forth in motion, ie. querying publishers about picture-book manuscripts or poetry that I have written, requesting they view my work. I have been given the green light from several, but have not taken that next step. I should. Did I do this? Nah... I never followed up with those publishers who gave me a green light, nor did I pursue any other publishers.

* Keep writing personal essays, poetry, children's books. I should not just list the titles and ideas I have for creative pieces, but should actually breathe live into these projects. Um, yes, I wrote a few poems. My personal essays are my daily posts. And the ideas for creative pieces are still scribbled on small snippets of paper and scattered here at home or at work amidst my other work.

* Make time for me. The only time "for me" I honored was my computer time...and there was a lot of that!

* Make more time for my husband and children...and parents and siblings and their families. I wish I could say that I did that, but I didn't really. I didn't make more time, nor did I have more free time coming to me. In fact, there was less time, what with this blogging obsession of mine.

* Enjoy each moment to the best of my ability because time is fleeting. Okay, I've done well enough with this, while sometimes I even had to pretend I was enjoying the moment!

* Continue to strive to be the best person that I can be. Still striving...

* Continue to look for the good in the people around me, even if it's not so obvious. Sometimes it's tough to see the good, but I look really closely for it nonetheless.

* Continue to be thankful to Hashem for all that I am, all that I have and all that I can be. And I definitely still am!

Here's what I've been thinking... This year, I will announce my resolutions by adding "bli neder," "We'll see" and "I hope"!

Resolution: So I hope, bli neder, to try and fulfill 2005's resolutions in 2006 -- but we'll just have to wait and see if that happens.

Do you have any resolutions, aside from the obvious ones, that you've made for the coming year?

Blogging 101: Revisited

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A hush falls over the room.

"Thank you. Now a new term has just started for this class, Blogging 101. As you look around the room, you'll see several new faces, several old faces, and some empty seats. Those empty seats are for students who will no doubt be joining us when they hear what a wonderful spirited group we have in this room, and there are some students who've left us to seek their interests elsewhere."

"Um, Ms. TorontoPearl...?" pipes up a gregarious young man.

"Yes...uh--" I look down at my clipboard and student names "-- Andy Hardy?"

"No, ma'am, it's not Andy Hardy. That's just how I originally registered when I signed up for this class. My name is simply Danny Miller. What I wanted to ask is if we ever get to see old movies in this course or take field trips to places like old theaters?"

"Why would we do that in a class like this?" I inquire pointedly at this pleasant-looking young man.

A beautiful, dark-haired girl with a slight accent pipes up. "'Cause it would make our learning more of an adventure! It's always fun to have an adventure, isn't it?"

A bespectacled male student points to the girl. "Yeah, Sophia's right! I can make an adventure out of almost anything -- all it takes is some imagination and an interested audience."

"And what is your name?"

"Neil Kramer. And I prefer to be called Neilochka, if you don't mind. All my girlfriends call me that, right, Sophia?"

At the back of the room there's suddenly a slight commotion. Desks are being shifted and whispering can be heard.

"Excuse me, boys. What do you think you're doing?"

"Um, we're trying to align our desks perfectly so that we can think better -- you know, be on the straight and narrow."

"And you boys are..."

"McAryeh," whispers one. "David," blurts out the other.

"Well, David, at least waste your time with something important!" I declare.

And then I hear crackling paper -- "Where is that sound coming from?" I inquire as I glance around the room. Off to the side is a trio of young women, unwrapping lollipops, and passing them around.

"Ladies...please stop that. We don't eat candy in the middle of class."

"Sorry, Ms. TorontoPearl," says one. "It's just that I have a tremendous sweet tooth, and I always need something sweet to chew on. My friends, Randi and Anne, brought me some goodies and we're sharing them. Sharing is good, isn't it?"

"And sharing helps unify people," says Anne. "I even share my ideas with people, like ideas about books and kids and --"

"And I share my humor with others. And I like to help people with problems. That's good, too!" announces Randi.

"Well, yes...sharing is good. And speaking of sharing... We have two new students who transfered from another school. They're feeling a little sad these days 'cause no doubt they feel as if they lost their best friend, and having to go into unfamiliar surroundings. Please warmly welcome Glen and Elie. Show them what goodness is all about." The two men shyly smile from the back left-hand corner of the room.

"Okay, class, I know it'll take me a while to get to learn who all of you are, and I hope I haven't forgotten to mention anything right now, but we'll soon be comfortable with one another and will have a great time in Blogging 101. Everyone ready to have a great time?"

"Yesssssssss!" is yelled out in unison.

"Good. Let's get this party started....!"

A Tisket, a Brisket...

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Tell me, how can you top this product on the right: a brisket yarmulke?

THE BRISKET YARMULKE - Made of 100% kosher brisket, this one-size-fits-all “beefy beanie” comes emblazoned with a horseradish Star of David.

And speaking of brisket...can anyone tell me why brisket recipes are associated with Chanukah on every holiday menu I look at? Personally, I think the High Holidays or Pesach is the time to serve brisket at a family meal.

Our Chanukah meals used to consist of latkes and more latkes with sour cream or applesauce, and salad -- very simple dairy or pareve meals. When, pray tell, did a "good brisket" enter into Chanukah's gourmet equation?!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Two Wise Men Came A-Calling

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This post can also be titled Davka.

Last night, I 'd gone into our living room to draw open the curtains and set up a minimum of four chanukiyot to light (3 for each of the children; 1 for the adults). Although Chanukah had started on Sunday night, we had not yet been home to light our own candles, so everything was to be set up for the first time.

Just as I drew open the curtains, I saw two black-hatted men walk up our driveway to the front door. "Shlichim" I thought, "coming for donations!"

Now, I live in a Jewish neighborhood, but not a particular frum neighborhood, so we've only been "canvassed"for donations once so far in our two years plus of living here. We have friends who live closer to "the big shul" who are answering the door to donation seekers several times a month.

My husband was in the kitchen preparing latkes and dressed very casually, and I was left to open the door upon the knock. Davka, of all days, here I was wearing pants! Generally I wear skirts, but as I'd been home yesterday, I'd opted for pants. So I was self-conscious from the minute the knock came.

I opened the door to "Happy Chanukah" and replied "Chag Sameach". These 2 young teenage emissaries of Lubavitch were on the doorstep, asking if we'd already lit the candles, or if I needed any help in doing so. I told him that I was just about to set up several menorahs, one for each of my children.

My daughter shyly stood nearby, also dressed in her jeans yesterday while at home. One of the Lubavitchers pulled out a handful of dreidels from his pocket and offered my daughter one. Along came my youngest son--and he was davka dressed for the occasion, his tzitizit hanging out, his kippah on his head. The Lubavitchers must've wondered what kind of household this was--mother and daughter in jeans, son in kippah and tzitzit. Okay, so we're Modern.

I joked with the teens and asked if they wanted to light with us, and one asked if I needed help lighting. I quickly said no, that my husband was nearby and would soon be lighting with us. Had hubby made an appearance, I wonder what the teens would've thought: man in shorts and tank top -- very casual -- a baseball hat on his head, spatula for frying latkes in his hand.

We weren't actually ready to light just then, but in hindsight it might have been very nice had the Lubavitch teens stayed to light with us, and witness that although we might not have looked the part at that moment, we knew what we were doing, and we were doing it right... It would have been nice to open our "ohel" (tent) to Lubavitchers for a change, an act of role reversal.

I'm sort of hoping that these 2 young men might alight upon our front doorstep once more before the chag is over. They go around helping others perform the mitzvah of candle lighting; maybe next time we can fulfill the mitzvah of "hachnasat orchim" (welcoming of guests) ...and offer them some latkes and a mean game of dreidel!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Sometimes I Wonder...

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Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't just be better off using this blog of mine as a pure venting venue, as an exclusive room for ranting.

I've been at it for a year and in hindsight, I don't believe that I've made my blog a forum for shouting out about what bothers me, what turns me off, what injustices hide on every street corner. Yes, I've revealed my passively angry self a few times, but perhaps not often enough.

I haven't ranted nor raved too much; however, I've revealed plenty. Do you feel you know me any better now than you did just over a year ago when you stumbled across my blog name? Could you reiterate what makes me tick? Do you feel you know me so well that reading my posts is just like sitting across from me at a cybercafe table and sharing a tete-a-tete?

Sometimes I wonder if I've sometimes revealed too much, if perhaps when you meet me, you'll think you know everything there is to know about me...except perhaps my real name! Did my poetry say too much, or perhaps did my "All About Me" list from many moons ago set you on the path to knowing Pearl? Or maybe the memes I replied to appeased your personal curiosities about me.

Like any true jewel, I believe I'm multifaceted. Yes, this Pearl might be saying too much at times, but believe me when I say there's much more to me than meets the printed computer screen. I'm a composite of contradictions: I appear very conservative, yet some of my offbeat thinking makes me liberal; I am gentle and mild-mannered, yet can shrill with the best of them; I often appear bold and self-assured, yet I am the biggest wuss and scaredy-cat when it comes to many things; I am very creative in my thinking, yet sometimes lazy to put forth the effort to bring those thoughts to fruition.

I'd like to think that the value of this jewel appreciates over time, just as your appreciation of Pearlies of Wisdom does too. So here's to many more "revealing" sessions about me...

"My Zayde" by Moshe Yess

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As I stroll through blogland, peeking in the windows of your blogs, I notice that so many of you, especially at this time of year, or during the High Holidays, recall your grandparents with such a fondness, such a warmth of spirit.

Unfortunately, I only knew one grandparent, and he passed away soon after I turned four years old, so my memories of him are rather limited. But his gentle spirit, his smile and his goodness live on in my mother and all she represents.

For all of you who have been fortunate to know and have a Zayde, or a Zaydie, or a Gramps, or a Grandpa, or a Saba, or a Papa, or--as in my case--a Grospappi, this song with its beautiful and tear-jerking lyrics are for you.

My Zayde lived with us in my parents’ home,
He used to laugh, he put me on his knee.
And he spoke about his life in Poland,
He spoke, but with a bitter memory.

And he spoke about the soldiers who would beat him;
They laughed at him, they tore his long black coat.
And he spoke about a synagogue that they burned down one day,
And the crying that was heard beneath the smoke.

But Zayde made us laugh,
Zayde made us sing,
And Zayde made a kiddush Friday night;
And Zayde, oh, my Zayde,
How I love him so,
And Zayde used to teach me wrong from right.

His eyes lit up when he would teach me Torah,
He taught me every line so carefully.
He spoke about our slavery in Egypt,
And how G-d took us out to make us free.

But winter went by,
Summer came along,
I went to camp to run and play.
And when I got back home,
They said, “Zayde’s gone,”
And all his books were packed and stored away.

I don’t know how or why it came to be,
It happened slowly over so many years,
We just stopped being Jewish
like my Zayde was,
And no one cared enough to shed a tear.


But many winters went by,
And many summers came along,
And now my children sit in front of me.
And who will be the Zayde of my children,
Who will be their Zayde, if not me?

Who will be the Zaydes of our children,
Who will be their Zaydes, if not we?

Monday, December 26, 2005

You Light Up My Life

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Okay, okay, so everyone's writing a post about Chanukah -- nu, why should I be different?

Growing up, I shared a simple Chanukah with my parents and brothers: the brachot and lighting of the candles, me, on the piano, accompanying my father while he led"Maoz Tsur"; eating some wonderful latkes which, although tasty, smelled up the house and whose fried smell lingered on our clothing; draidel playing with my brothers; eating chocolate coins; getting silver dollars as real Chanukah gelt. We were not big on gift-giving, instead getting what we needed -- pajamas, socks, etc. It was a simple, practical haimeshe kind of it should be!

Of course, many years later, with family becoming extended and newer generations being born, there was more gift giving happening, but still the accent was on the gathering of family, the admiring the light of the candles and appreciating the fact that we were all together. (and yes, Pearl playing the piano for "Maoz Tsur" was still part of the picture!)

One year, my husband and I gave a wonderful Chanukah gift to our parents -- I wrote a poem that also served as a riddle of sorts. It introduced and announced my pregnancy with my oldest child.

About three years later, I stood in front of the Chanukah "licht" with child #2, then about 5 months old, and soon after wrote a poem about her, about whom she was named for, and about Chanukah in a town in Poland in 1942 compared to Chanukah 1997. (that poem, important to me, was published the next year)

A few Chanukahs have since passed. We are more than happy to still share the lighting of candles with our children and our parents; more than happy, we are thankful.

But personal family aside, the nicest Chanukah experience I ever had was in Far Rockaway, NY, about 10 years ago. My first cousin who has, bli ayin harah, ten children, had oil-filled chanukiahs for each of those ten children to light, as well as one for him and his wife. The room was illuminated with such a magnificent warm and all-embracing light; the reflection in the living room window was a sight to behold, and I went outside the house to stand on the sidewalk and take a photo of what was truly a picture window. It was really wonderful experience for me to see the light that was brought into that home over the Chanukah season.

I hope that each of you holds up a lit candle to light the chanukiah in your windows and may the light be cast right back and reflected on you and your families.

Happy Chanukah.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Knishmas

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...Merry Knishmas to all...and to all a good night!

The Night Before Chanukah

'Twas the night before Chanukah, boichiks and maidels
Not a sound could be heard, not even the dreidels
The menorah was set by the chimney alight
In the kitchen, the Bubbie was hopping a bite
Salami, Pastrami, a glaisele tay
And zoyere pickles mit bagels-- Oy vay!
Gezint and geschmock the kinderlach felt

While dreaming of taiglach and Chanukah gelt
The alarm clock was sitting, a kloppin' and tickin'
And Bubbie was carving a shtickele chicken
A tummel arose, like the wildest k'duchas
Santa had fallen right on his tuchas!
I put on my slippers, ains, tzvay, drei

While Bubbie was eating herring on rye
I grabbed for my bathrobe and buttoned my gottkes
And Bubbie was just devouring the latkes
To the window I ran, and to my surprise
A little red yarmulka greeted my eyes.
When he got to the door and saw the menorah

"Yiddishe kinder," he cried, "Kenahorah!"
I thought I was in a Goyishe hoise!
As long as I'm here, I'll leave a few toys."
"Come into the kitchen, I'll get you a dish
Mit a gupel, a leffel, and a shtickele fish."
With smacks of delight he started his fressen

Chopped liver, knaidlach, and kreplach gegessen
Along with his meal he had a few schnapps
When it came to eating, this boy sure was tops
He asked for some knishes with pepper and salt
But they were so hot he yelled out "Gevalt!"
He loosened his hoysen and ran from the tish

"Your koshereh meals are simply delish!"
As he went through the door he said "See y'all later
I'll be back next Pesach in time for the seder!"
So, hutzmir and zeitzmir and "Bleibtz mir gezint"
He called out cheerily into the wind.
More rapid than eagles, his prancers they came

As he whistled and shouted and called them by name
"Come, Izzie, now Moishe, now Yossel and Sammy!
On Oyving, and Maxie, and Hymie and Manny!"
He gave a geshrai, as he drove out of sight"
A gut yontiff to all, and to all a good night!"

Friday, December 23, 2005

Acapulco Gold (A True Story)

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Back around 1988, I traveled to Acapulco with a girlfriend who was fluent in Spanish. While walking on the beach one day, we were approached by several people selling their wares -- arts and crafts, cigarettes, chewing gum. Anne and I quickly waved them off and continued along. I decided to let Anne deal with the next vendor and moved aside to gather some shells. When I looked back, she was still engrossed in conversation with the man. What was being said?

When he finally moved on and Anne joined me, I asked what the Mexican had been selling. I hadn't noticed him carrying any goods. She said that he had offered her jewelery -- gold. To put him off easily, she told the man that she could have gold anytime she wanted, that her father was in the business and could easily get it for her.

"Anne," I said. "Did he say gold jewelery?"

"He said gold -- Acapulco gold."

"Anne," I shrieked with laughter. "That doesn't mean gold gold. That means marijuana."

"Oh..." she said. "Everyone talks about Mexican silver, so I just assumed that Acapulco has a reputation for gold jewelery. That guy kept trying to convince me to buy from him so I let him believe my dad was a jeweler."

She and I continued to laugh as we realized what that "vendor" must have thought about her easy access to "gold."

Anne might have been speaking the same language that afternoon, but boy...was it a different dialect!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I've Gotta Be Me...or Maybe Not

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I used to see entertainer Anthony Newley guest-starring on variety shows while I was growing up. Nine times out of ten, he'd end up singing, "I've Gotta Be Me."

Sure, it's great to be ourselves, but sometimes (and not just in blogland) we like to be someone else...or at least imagine ourselves to be someone else, doing something else.

So, why don't you try this at home:

If I wasn't _______________, I'd like to be ___________________.

You can apply it to looks, gender, personality, profession, interests...anything.

In my case, it might read something like this:

If I wasn't a copy editor, I'd like to be a TV talk show host. I love to do research, I love to learn what makes people tick, and at the same time learn new things, and once in a while, I love to have an audience! My speaking skills and my listening skills would definitely improve.

Okay, so which of you folks would like to be my first guest on the TorontoPearl Show? Actually, maybe I can get Oprah to open up the show with me, followed by David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres as my first guests. Matisyahu could be the musical guest, and we'd be big on audience participation for some spots on the show. Like let an audience member sit in the big, comfy chair and interview me for a change of pace, or I'd interview audience members and give them a great gift certificate to a local eatery or entertainment venue. The show's format would probably be a melange gleaned from all talk shows that I've watched for the past four decades.

Okay, we've got the show, we've got the guests, we've got the audience. Now we just need a decent band-- hey, PsychoToddler, do you want a permanent music gig; we could also fly Treppenwitz in once in a while to play his trombone or whatever "t" instrument he plays with you on stage.

Oh ya, and I need a personal assistant -- any of you willing to work for minimum Canadian dollars? And I definitely need a logo for the show; branding is so important. Hey, Air Time, doing anything these days besides planning your aliya and designing games for bloggers? Get The TorontoPearl Show a logo and get it chikchak, as quick as can be!

So...methinks I'm set to be a TV talk show host. Oops, need one more thing: advertisers. But I've got the best idea -- all you bloggers could run commercials advertising your sites! What a genius I am!

Now, if I could only make fantasy become a reality...

Who Took the Fun Out of Funny?

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In my younger days, I used to go to a Toronto comedy club called Yuk Yuk's-- Jim Carrey and Howie Mandel are two main comedians who stepped off the stage at Yuk Yuk's and into the embrace of Hollywood.

Yes, I would go see "household" Canadian comics but I often had more pleasure going to the club on Amateur Night to watch folks stand on stage and try to get the laughs. My friends and I enjoyed sitting very close to the stage so that we could get picked on by the comic and then heckle back if necessary.

It couldn't have been easy for these guys and gals to stand onstage, trying out their best -- and worst -- lines out on an innocent group of folks. You could sit alongside the stage and watch the sweat trickle off their forehead, the flushed looks, the nervous hand gestures. Many times they looked forward to that blinking red light bulb built into the ceiling in a discreet fashion, signaling their 3-5 minute set was up.

But I loved to laugh and I always anticipated that one day I might have the guts and the glory to stand up on stage and try out my collected humor bits that I'd written over time in my journals. I knew it was more difficult than it looked; to be spontaneously funny in a small group is relatively easy. To be able to do that in front of a large group, or to have your comedy routines down pat ain't so easy.

I never did make it (yet!) to Amateur Night, but I see some of my writings, some of my conversations with people as the next best thing. You don't know me all that well, but I've got you in my sights and I'm gonna give you all the humor I've got stored up.

But I must ask: Is that red light bulb blinking for me? Is it time for me to get off the stage already? Why aren't you people laughing? If you are, I ... can't .... hear .... you!!! Am I bombing, or will I be called back for Amateur Night, perhaps for the final set -- the best spot -- of the night?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Who're You Calling a Dog?!?

This is Tyson. Ahem...this WAS Tyson. He passed away on June 18, 2005, when I was in Los Angeles and my husband and children were out for the day. An interesting-looking ugly-looking fellow, but a cutie and sweet and gentle dog nonetheless. Seemingly ugly, nonetheless Tyson managed to get himself a permant job as a pin-up model for a friend's dog-walking service--he may be gone in person...ahem.. in body, but his photo lives on -- on our friend's service van and Web site.

Anyhow, what drove me to write this doggie post today is because I love dogs--the wild and wooly creatures who love us in return for all the good we do for them...ahem...for all the doggie snacks we give them, for all the balls we throw to them, for all the baby talk we use on them. Every day, while driving to work, I pass this woman walking a poodle. It's nice for me to watch the passage of time, the seasonal changes, through this pet. Currently, the dog bounds through the snow while wearing boots and a warm doggie jacket.

Tyson, who was adopted almost three years ago, came with accoutrements, including a wooly jacket. But being the big boy he was, it was tough to do up the Velcro closings on his underbelly. Can you imagine trying to get boots on this beast? It's tough enough to get my kids to stomp the snow off their boots and remove them gently and remind them to hang up their winter coats. Try telling that to a dog, to a poodle: "Mitzi, honey, I know you're cold from our 10-minute walk, and yes, you just want to lie in front of the furnace grate, but could you please remove your boots for Mummy? It would be good of you, too, if you took off that jacket, and carried it over to hang over the railing leading to the basement.... Good extra-special treat for you IF YOU DO THAT for Mummy."

I've gotta ask this: Where have all the German shepherds gone? When I was a child, a poodle or a German shepherd were the dogs of the day. These days, those nasty -- and now illegal -- pitbulls have taken their place in this world.

Like anything else in this world, I generally go for the tried and true, the common and conservative look. But my progressive side rears its ugly head every now and again, and I like things that are somewhat different. Like dogs.

Have you ever come face-to-face with a Puli, a Hungarian kind of sheep dog that resembles a Rastafarian's head of hair? Wild and wooly certainly applies to them. How the heck does an owner or a groomer brush through that fur. I, who as a kid had even crazier curls and frizzy hair than I do now, sat as my parent used "brush, comb, brush, comb...and Johnson & Johnson's No More Tangles" to get through my hair. Does a Puli owner do the same?

When I was in my ninth month of one of my pregnancies, I was coming out of a mall with my husband and there was a car parked in front by the door. The car's back-seat passenger was a white dog who was looking woefully (woof-fully?) out the window. I broke out into gales of laughter when I saw this animal; the screaming laughter just kept coming and I was afraid I'd go into early labor. This poor animal looked like a standard sized poodle whose groomer had taken "just a bit" too much off the forehead and nose of the dog. For years we kept talking about this, saying "Do you remember that dog we saw...?" Recently I decided that maybe it wasn't actually a poodle, so I googled something like "Dog resembling a sheep" and to my surprise that dog does have a name: Bedlington terrier.

And what about those little rat-resembling dogs that have wisps of hair here and many ways like a comb-over on a man with thinning hair. I think they can't decide what kind of dogs they are but I'll tell you that they're called Chinese Cresteds.

In May 2004, I took my children and Tyson to Woofstock, a fair/festival catering to... you guessed it... dog owners and their pets. Booth wares ranged from gourmet dog food to doggie day care services to doggie fashions to photographers and painters that would capture your pet in picture. It was an eye-opening venue and both I and my children didn't know where to look first -- between the shrieks of fear from my children and their excitement to pet some of the passersby, it was a most entertaining and delightful couple of hours for us.

Tyson, being the dog breed he was, with the short legs and difficulty dealing with heat, was ready to sit out our stroll. So out came child #3 from the stroller, and I lugged Tyson into the stroller in his stead, gave him some doggie treat samples I'd scored and some water from our water bottles and let him sit regally there in that designer stroller wearing the new PINK bandanna that a booth vendor had given us. Tyson didn't have an identity crisis and had no qualms about wearing anything his merit.

It was fun to get the looks and the pointing and the smiles from people. But I thought, What's so different about pushing the dog in a stroller? They're selling dog and cat buggies that are cages or boxes on wheels. At least my pet is strolling in style!

At some point I passed a couple speaking Hebrew. The man turned to the woman and told her to look at the dog. Of course, Pearl being Pearl, I piped up and said in Hebrew: "Yeah, look at the dog in the stroller. He thinks he's a king!"

My husband talks about getting another dog perhaps, but not a large one as I think he would. He'd like some small frilly dog with lots of hair that would take lots of grooming. He thinks a dog like that is low-maintenance, unlike some big one that expends lots of energy and needs to be constantly walked and have lots of space to roam, etc. Okay, so maybe we'll get another dog. Maybe a dog that will need to use No More Tangles or even Dippety-Doo. Okay, maybe I'll give in to such a breed, but there will be no attitude allowed in my house. None of the: "I'm a lap dog, I need to be pampered, I need to sleep in your bed between you and hubby." There will be none of the "I can't eat from this bowl. It has some dried meat on the side. Ewwww." None of the "I feel faint. I can't walk anymore. Please pick me up and hold me." (oh, wait, Tyson did that, too, and he was definitely not a diva dog...but yes, he did have a pink bandana!)

I can't have a dog like that in the house ' might lead to some competition for me!

Well, I'm gonna take a BOW (-wow-wow) now and leave you with these brilliant doggie quotations:

"The average dog is a nicer person than the average person." --Andrew A. Rooney

"Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful." --Ann Landers

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Philadelphia Freedom

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I received an e-mail today from a staff writer of a Philadelphia newspaper. She'd managed to come across my post from November that dealt very tongue-in-cheek with wanting there to be extended hours for stores and services, extended even meaning 'round-the-clock.

She'd read my piece, was writing something similar for the Philly paper, and wanted to interview me about my post, any comments it might've gotten, and she had some other questions for me as well. We decided on an e-mail interview.

She told me later in another e-mail, after I'd responded to her questions, that she managed to get some good quotes from my answers and that the article was scheduled to appear online in mid-January.

What can I say? I was pretty pleased as punch to have been contacted. As well, as I discussed it earlier with someone today, the Internet can be a tricky place. Yes, we have freedom to say what we want, but we have to be careful what we say 'cause it might just come back to bite you on the tushie!

Now I don't know anyone in Philly to whom I can point out the article in a few weeks when it appears, but some people in Philly will know me thereafter. They'll know my first name, my online name and the name of my blog. That's good enough for me; at least there's someone out there -- a stranger to me -- who thinks that something I've said is print-worthy, not just blog-worthy!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Randi with an "i"

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I have become friends and acquaintances with several people over the past year as a result of my -- and their -- blogging. I have no qualms about going offline, writing to a blogger and telling them how much I enjoy their writing or a particular post. A door opens up right there and the welcome mat is often placed outside. In some cases, I do know the welcome mat isn't always there, but nonetheless I am part of the "let me speak or forever hold my peace" committee.

Randi with an "i" is one of those people with whom I've become friends over the past six months. We both attended the Ariel Avrech Memorial Lecture in Los Angeles this past June, but were never introduced. And by the time I realized that was the case, and I asked Robert Avrech if he'd introduce me to her, she was gone. So I took matters into my own hands upon my return to Toronto, and wrote to her...and we've been writing to one another ever since!

Randi did blog briefly last June, just so that she could acquire a name in order to comment elsewhere. But after reading blogs for so many months, she has decided she's wanted to get in on the fun. So, Randi, aka cruisin-mom, is cruising her way through blogland these days. Look out for a comment of hers on your blog, and check out her own blog. Her last entry on "holiday parties" is a funny one, and one that I'm sure many of us can relate to.

Do check out Randi's half-century's worth of accumulated wisdom; no doubt you'll find something even younger folks can relate to!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An Anniversary...of the Real Kind

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Next week I'll be celebrating my twelfth wedding anniversary.

The kabbalat panim, chupah and dinner were held in a banquet hall called The Paradise. So I like to tell people that my marriage started off in paradise...but it's been hell ever since! No, just kidding... it's been the farthest from that. Pretty much paradise all the way.

Now, in case I've never made mention of this attribute in the past year, I'll now have you know that I love to enter contests -- run by TV stations, radio stations, book publishers, magazines. You name it, I've probably entered it.

Of course, it's great to win by true "luck of the draw" -- when your name is just selected at random. But it's even greater to win on merit -- eg. a winning marketing concept, or a winning idea for another contest, or ... You get the idea, I think. Winning based on my creative self always gives me a positive boost. And yes, over the years I've won several contests, based on both "luck of the draw" and my creativity.

A couple weeks ago I was on a local radio station's web page and noticed a contest called "Renew Your Love."

Love is blind … How do I love thee? Let me count the ways … Love, love me do … No matter how you say it, love makes the world go ‘round. Newstalk 1010 and Omni Jewelcrafters know that RENEWING your love is even sweeter! Send a letter telling us about the love of your life and why you’d like to renew your love. We’ll select the best entry to win the grand prize: a beautiful diamond anniversary band from Jack Berkovits and Omni Jewelcrafters! Plus the winner will enjoy a sumptuous celebratory dinner for 10 family and friends at Omni’s Jewels and Java Restaurant. We also have 10 runner up prizes of dinner for two at Java and Jewels. This contest closed Sunday, December 11, 2005.

The grand prize winner will read their winning entry live on the Bill Carroll Show Tuesday, December 13.

The great thing about this contest was that the restaurant is a Kosher restaurant. It's a combination jewelery store/restaurant whose owner continually advertises on this radio station, so I guess a better way to advertise was to sponsor a contest. Knowing that it's a Kosher restaurant, knowing that my anniversary was coming up, knowing that I love to write letters, and knowing that I love to win contests was plenty of incentive for me to enter.

I knew I'd have to sell myself via my words, but I knew I also had to maintain a low-key tone because of my husband's preference to keep a low profile in life. So it was a matter of balance. Being the Libran that I am, I think I managed to do that. Turns out I wasn't the grand prize winner, but my letter was selected as one of the 10 runners-up, which was perfectly fine by me. I'd played all my cards right.

I guess I now have to go to the jewelery store/restaurant and order something like grilled tuna with roasted potatoes, a Greek salad and pearls on the side. Or maybe I'll just take an order of grilled vegetable wraps with diamonds to go!

In any case, here is what I wrote:

My 12th wedding anniversary will be on December 19. It's been twelve years of life -- and love -- with a good man, and subsequently with three wonderful children.

Renewing my love is just a statement announcing that I'm taking a good thing and making it even better.

From day one, people kept telling TORONTOPEARL's HUSBAND and I that we made a wonderful couple -- first as two people who dated one another, which grew into something serious, and then as a married couple. That was a compliment in itself, to be considered ideal for one another, not just from our POV, but from others', too.

Year one of marriage, which is supposed to be so difficult for people, was a smooth transition. And there was certainly no "seven-year-itch"...not unless you count the birth of a third child as part of that category!

We still discover new things about each other -- we laugh at the same jokes, have similar goals and aspirations for ourselves and our children, we work hard at being individuals while at the same time being a couple.

I married a man whom people only had nice things to say about; that pleased me to no end. People still only have nice things to say about TORONTOPEARL's HUSBAND, and I know that I and our children are the luckiest to have this wonderful all-giving, selfless man in our lives.

To renew my love is to say, "Happy 12th Anniversary, TORONTOPEARL's HUSBAND. I am blessed with you in my life. Our children are blessed with you in their life. Our friends are blessed with you in their life. Our marriage is a blessing, our love is a blessing. May we continue to go from strength to strength, arm in arm, heart in heart -- for many years to come!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Confess

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I confess I borrowed this from Mirty's post from a few days ago. I liked the concept. I adopted it as my own. So here goes...

I confess...that I can be a nudnik/pest/paskunyak.

I confess...that I check my blog and other favorites dozens of times a day to see if there are any new comments.

I confess...that I am not always focused on my work or my personal responsibilities.

I confess...that my parenting skills are probably not what they should be, as I'm continually learning what it takes to be a parent (and this is after 10 1/2 years of trying my hand at it!)

I confess...that I assume too much about people sometimes, and as a result can get terribly disappointed.

I confess...I love to be creative in my gift-giving.

I confess...that I have a bit of a Messiah complex.

I confess...that spelling mistakes irk me greatly when they're silly ones.

I confess...that I have a tape of me singing Diana Ross's "Touch Me in the Morning" that I recorded in a studio with very minimal sound engineer mixing.

I confess...that I've always loved making lists.

I confess...that I'm so very easily intimidated by people.

I confess...that people don't always "get" my humor.

I confess...that I've already had my fifteen minutes of fame...several times over...and yes, I sometimes appreciate the spotlight.

I confess...that instead of writing these confessions right now, I should be hard at work on a freelance assignment. See, told you I'm not always so focused on my responsibilities!

The Anniversary Waltz

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Today I'm celebrating a special anniversary -- nope, not my wedding anniversary. That happens next week.

Today, the 15th of December, makes it a year since I became an official blogger. I'd been a blog reader since October 2004, and decided to jump on the blogging bandwagon a mere two months later. I never expected that it would have such a personal impact on my life. For the most part, the impact has been a positive one, with blogging allowing me to make some new and some dear friends near and far, allowing me to exercise my writing skills on an almost-daily basis, allowing me to master the art of depiction and description, allowing me to voice my thoughts on other's blogs, allowing me to share many of your joys and sadnesses, allowing me to laugh out loud -- at work! -- while reading your words, etc.

I pretty much gave up TV for blogging -- not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, I listen to the radio and read news magazines and newspapers, but more often I get my bout of daily international news from reading various blogs. I also get my feed of little-known facts and other trivia.

The best way, I've decided, to CELEBRATE my one-year blogiversary is to share with you once again my earliest posts from December 15, 2004. There were three that day, but it's just because I spread the posts out.

I hope that your pleasures are simple, and that reading Pearlies of Wisdom is one of those pleasures. Thanks for bringing my world into yours!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

My Pearlies of Wisdom

Welcome to the world of all things Pearl.

As a writer, I am also an observer. And as an observer, I am able to have -- and share -- my opinion of things. I call my opinion: Pearlies of Wisdom. They are not grand, like pearls of wisdom, but are tiny insights, strunglikeanecklaceofbeads, to wear around my neck, and to place around your neck when you need advice, insight of a mother, wife and friend.

Welcome to the world of all things Pearl.

posted by torontopearl at 1:06 AM


A Reason To Blog

I have recently become caught up in the world of blogging--never before had I even used the term or sought out one to read until I learned about an onsite journal, Seraphic Secret.

I discovered a world of beautiful, but often sad, images and words. A world of fathers and sons, mothers and sons, sisters and brothers, teachers and students. A world of living ... and being, a world of dreaming ... and action, a world of loving ... and hoping ... a world of feeling ... and knowing, a world of love ... and loss.

I discovered that there is a great void in this world, left by the untimely passing of one Ariel Chaim Avrech, an adored and devoted son and brother and Torah scholar.

In each generation there is a great Tzaddik-- a righteous person. Some are known and named, while others remain anonymous until after they have passed from this world to the next. And to the best of my knowledge, to the best of my long-distance insight, Ariel Chaim Avrech was a Tzaddik.

May his memory be for a blessing...

posted by torontopearl at 1:26 AM


Lost...but Eventually Found

Can't believe it--between yesterday and today, I got lost in blah, blah, blah blogland. I couldn't find my way back to my site. (and when I just created a wonderful entry for today, I tripped up again, and lost what I'd written.)

How many combinations of passwords and site names did I use? Boy, was I annoyed, frustrated that I couldn't retrace my steps back here. But a kind soul, who posted my link to his well-read blog, became my road map and I found my way back this a.m. to read what I'd written yesterday night.

And then tonight came and I wanted to post again, and couldn't find my way. Asking for technical help got me further lost, and it was just by continual trial and error -- and mazel, good luck -- that I found my way here.

I'm great with directions, don't guess otherwise, but I do have a real problem with refolding maps to their original creases. Getting lost reminded me too much of that flaw of mine. I know how to do it...I just can't!

But in any case, I'm here now. I want to thank my public comment-er for welcoming me so warmly to the land of blog, as well as my private comment-er for his. Oh-oh, I've become one of you types! (no, honestly, that just slipped out -- no pun, literary or otherwise, intended!)

I now must say: "I pledge allegiance to this blog to make it clear and concise, rather than too detail-oriented, one of my crutches and talents." I don't want to lose any readers -- hey, you still there? Hullo! Or have you gone off to peek into some other person's private life!

In any case, I want to leave you readers with this pearlie of wisdom, garnered from the wisdom of my dear parents: "Words are like birds. Once they're out, they fly away and you can't retrieve them." So please, watch what you say and who you say it to. Mean what you say and say what you mean -- and I'll try to do the same. After all, we don't want to be taking a walk one day and come across a flock of birds sitting high up in a tree, and have to wonder: "Did I let that flock loose?!"

I wish you all "Chalomot Paz"--Hebrew for "Golden Dreams."

posted by torontopearl at 10:44 PM

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Ice

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I've had a post on ice for the past few days.

It should be ready to thaw out in about...oh...say another five to ten minutes.

Guess when that midnight sun hits, the post will be just about ready to rear its ugly head....

And the Survey Says...

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I was reading A Little Indulgence today and commented on this blogger's post about cutesie things her six-year-old daughter said.

I told her that, although I'm not so good at doing it anymore, I used to record the "out of the mouths of babes" wisdom that my three children shared when they were younger. These childish concepts truly were entertaining and often mind-boggling at the same time.

When I was a young girl, I used to watch Art Linkletter interview youngsters and ask them questions; many years later, Bill Cosby took up where Art had left off, and "Kids Say the Darndest Things" had its place once again on television.

Popular women's magazines like Good Housekeeping, First for Women, McCall's also offer up children's wisecracking wisdom in their pages. Truly a source of entertainment.

I suggested to my fellow blogger that perhaps we should try to start a group blog of sorts meant for fathers, mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, even pediatricians and pediatric dentists, etc. to submit some of the darnedest things the kids in their life say...or do. I suggested calling such a blog/site "Words...and then Some."

All those in favor, say "Ay"; all those against, hold your peace!

And just to give you an idea of things my kids have said...

My daughter had this to say when she was three years old:

A: I love you, Mummy.
Pearl: (hugging A) And I love you, princess... You'll always be my princess.
A: And you'll always be my queen!

My youngest son had this to say when he was three and a half years old:

We were walking to shul together and N. had been talking about height: the trees being high, the sky being high. He asked how the sky got that way.

Pearl: Hashem made it that way. Do you know who Hashem is?
N. : Yeah.
Pearl: Who?
A long pause. Then a smile...and then N. answers: A rabbi.

My oldest son knew more or less what he wanted to say in this episode when he was six years old. He was just s...l...i...g...h...t...l...y off the mark.

A. was doing homework with my husband and they were discussing Parshat Noach (the story of Noah). My husband asked my son where the ark landed.

A.: Mount Ararat

My husband: Where's that?

A.: Chicken. (at that moment, he couldn't think of the word "Turkey")

************************ who's in for this idea of a catch-all blog exclusively about kids who are near and dear to us. (uh-oh...stole that expression from some Christmas song -- I think something' wrong with this picture.) Now don't everybody answer at once...

December 14, 1957

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To my big brother, M, way over there in America, happy birthday.

When Orwell wrote, "Big brother is watching, " he didn't realize it referred to you, watching out for me!

I love you, and always will.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Toot, Toot*

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* trains in this post. In this case, "toot" refers to the Hebrew word for "strawberry" !

A short while ago, while washing some strawberries for my kids' school lunches, I had a flashback that took me back about 22 years. When I relay this story, you might be thinking to yourselves, "How pathetic...what a daddy's girl she is." or "What a baby she was." But believe you me, the daddy's girl aspect is something to definitely envy, not make fun of. The special treatment I might have gotten might not always have been appreciated by me, but in hindsight, that treatment is something to be revered.

Back to the strawberries...

Some 22 years ago, I had a job as a summer student at a Jewish agency in Toronto. I was updating community information and data, and doing so held my interest. One day, it was lunchtime, and I was on the phone talking to my mother. At that point in time, there were some very serious issues going on in my family, which took our attention and worry. That particular day, those serious issues had some more fuel added to the fire, and as my mother relayed the news, it was clearly very upsetting for her to tell me, and for me to hear the news. After talking some more, I asked, "Where's Dad?" (he'd already been pretty much retired by then, due to illness) My mother said, "I don't know. He went out and didn't say where he was going."

I wondered if he'd gone out of the house, further distressed over the news my mother had relayed, and wondered what emotional state I'd find my parents in when I came home in the evening.

Not long after I finished the conversation with my mother, the main door to the agency's office slowly opened...and in walked my father, a bowl in hand, a smile on his face. He had brought me beautiful strawberries that he'd washed and de-stemmed for me at home. At the moment I was slightly embarrassed -- Here I am, a 22 year old woman, and my father is bringing me washed strawberries? Maybe he wants to chew them for me, too, the embarrassed and cynical Pearl thought to herself. But a moment later, as I bit into those berries, I thought of what a selfless thing my father had just done. He'd prepared the treat for me, gotten into the car and traveled at least 20 minutes one way to deliver it to me. Doing so gave him a simple pleasure, while at the same time, perhaps took his mind off more serious, critical issues in our home.

A simple act like the one he performed that summer day in 1983 carries such weight; I can't imagine that he remembers that particular trait of "giving" that he demonstrated that day, but I certainly do and no doubt always will.

I've mentioned my father in previous posts over this past year... and it's only because I don't know any one on this earth who surpasses his goodness, his sense of selflessness, his generous and giving nature. He is my tzaddik, my mentor, a truly one-of-a-kind father...and I'm so glad that he is mine!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Walking from One's Past...Into One's Future

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There was a wedding this week in Toronto -- apparently a beautiful one from the looks of it on It was certainly a very beautiful bride and a handsome groom.

The bride wore an extra-heavy veil on top of her own, truly not seeing her way down the aisle, and being lovingly guided by her parents.

The groom wore not a suit, but a silk bekeshe, and his black hat sitting elegantly atop his head.

This is perhaps not such a special couple -- they are typical types in the frum world. I have no idea as to how they met, who the shadchan might have been, how long the courtship was before an engagement was announced.

I think the couple might not be so special, but certainly their parents are. These people are products of Aish HaTorah, having come up the ranks, so to speak, in their Yiddishkeit with the help of the wonderful organization.

I remember well over 20 years ago when I attended an Aish-sponsored lecture in Toronto, with the guest speaker, Elie Wiesel. But of course before the main speaker, there were several others, one who was this bride's mother. She spoke of what impact Aish HaTorah had had on her life, having gone from being a bagels-and-cream-cheese-Sunday brunch type of Jew to one who began to follow the mitzvot and found meaning in them. This was a girl who'd gone to my public high school when I left the day school system, and was in my year, if not in my classes. I didn't know anything of her then, but I certainly learned about her that night at the lecture.

I remember seeing her, as well, in my shul countless years ago, when she was still in a learning mode. She had a fervor about her, but consulted with other shul goers about where to find the pages in the chumash or siddur; she was being given small tips re. bending, bowing, walking three steps backwards then forwards when davening.

She certainly has come so far, as has her husband. They certainly are frummer than I am, and look and dress the part better than I ever could. To think that just 20 some years ago, this couple were basic, traditional Jews and are now very frum Jews raising a large family is a beautiful thing to watch, and certainly a beautiful thing to have aspired to.

I'm sure that the bride's parents extracted postive aspects of their own Jewish traditional familiar life, with which to move into their future of frumkeit, and the bride herself has taken postive aspects of her frum past with which to move into her future as a wife...and G-d willing, later a mother.

Yichus/pedigree shouldn't always have to mean that your ancestors had to be rabbis and great scholars; they could have been simple people who took it upon themselves to take their Yiddishkeit a step or many steps further, as this bride's parents did. That, in itself, is a most beautiful yichus.

Mazel tov to the bride and groom, and to both sets of parents. May the young couple be zoche to build a bayyit ne'eman b'Yisrael.

Please Speak Up

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In blogland, many of us use fancy-shmancy names to get your attention, to divert attention from our real names, or to remain anonymous. But even as anonymous bloggers who take on a "nom de plume," we are no longer so anonymous; attributes are given to "Blogger so-and-so" once we begin to recognize their writing or even commenting style.

It would be nice if all "Anonymous" commenters would please speak up and use a name. Not a real one necessarily. But I think that both negative and postive comments are better accepted when a name stands behind them. It's almost like putting a name to a face; but here it's putting a name to someone on the other end, someone more concrete than simply "Anonymous".

I've beared witness to reading blogs in which there is a heated and sometimes heartless "discussion" going on. Real and blogging names are often used, but any time an "Anonymous" pipes up, the person behind the blog assumes that the commenter is too chicken to openly state his/her mind and opinions, and thus hides behind "Anonymous".

"Anonymous" is just too common, too everyday. So any and every "Anonymous": get out there, stand up and be counted with the rest of us.

Just tell 'em "Pearlies of Wisdom" sent you...

And H...e ...r....e...'s Craigie!

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[Taken from]

Craig Newmark interview
by: Leslie Bunder

Craig Newmark

In less than a decade, Craigslist has become the number one place on the web to place a classified notice. Used across the world from New York to Tel Aviv and from San Francisco to London, Craigslist is the way to place and read almost any type of classfied.

Looking for a new room mate, plumber to do some work, sell a car and even find a partner, Craigslist is the community for you.

But for traditional publishers who have relied on classifieds in the back of their newspapers and profited out of it, Craigslist is a real threat to their future. People are moving away from print classifieds in favour of going online and using Craigslist.

Craigslist itself has inspired various clones and copycats, but there remains only one that has the global reach and recognition that this San Francisco-based company has.

Such is the interest in the potential of Craiglist that online auction giant eBay even acquired a 25% in the company which was founded by Craig Newmark.

In an exclusive interview with’s Leslie Bunder, Craig Newmark reveals more about the service he founded.

Did you ever envisage Craigslist getting this big?

Not at all. I prefer to think of myself as lacking vision whatsoever which is a great comfort.

Before going on to the web, it all started off as an email list. How many people were there before you put it on the web?

It was several hundred. I was getting all these emails from people and said to myself, “I’m a programmer and I can write some code to turn email into web pages.”

How important is being Jewish for you?

I’m finding the values I learned as a kid are the values that work for me but they are the same values that pretty much everyone in the world is taught. The ideas to practice what one preaches.

Some would say you business practice is tikkun olam – making the world better?

As I recall it means being compassionate, giving something back to the world and making it better. I’m sure that’s also a matter of nerd philosophy as well.

I suspect I retained a great deal of that from religion school and I’ve just come back to the values which I guess I learned as a kid which I wasn’t effecting consciously until the last year or so.

What is your Jewish practice?

I’m completely secular. For me it’s more important to practice the essence of the religion and not the trappings. I do have a rabbi, although he’s unaware of that – that’s Leonard Cohen.

Actual Jewishness has more to do with action than with ritual. I know that may be a minority view but I think the political situation in Israel could be better if people followed through with religious values.

What’s your family background?

I’m guessing, and I could use help, my family was in Germany when things grew unpleasant there in the last 200-300 years and I think they probably migrated through Ukraine to Russia. That’s a guess, based on some readings. They came to the States at the turn of the 20th century.

You lost your father when you were a child, what was life like growing up in New Jersey?

Fortunately I was not aware we were not well off. At college I wound up with lots of scholarships so that wasn’t painful. I don’t remember much racism. I guess at that point it had become unfashionable which I’m grateful for. I had more problems being a nerd. As a nerd that’s a kind of ethnicity that transcends actual ethnicity.

How do you use Craigslist?

I’m overly focused on dealing with serious circumstances. I’ve used it for selling a car and I’ve used it to buy small electronics.

When listing countries and cites on Craigslist, why is Jerusalem and Tel Aviv currently listed in Asia?

Because Jim who is my CEO and who really runs Craig’s List now he like myself is an engineer so we take things literally and I guess in the most literal sense, Israel is in Asia.

You have also emerged as a supporter of the citizen journalism ideas, what does it mean to you?

It can mean many different things. This is my personal interest and not Craig’s List. In the US we have a problem where often the press doesn’t speak truth to power and that’s important because an inactive press seriously looking for what’s really going on can help keep you out of foreign misadventures. If the press fail to do that, we might find ourselves in another Vietnam situation and I was eligible for the draft then so I’m concerned on behalf of my nephews and nieces.

We have a problem with US government now and I feel with better information and more trustworthy information that will help out a great deal.

How do envisage the format of the display of citizen journalism – web sites, blogs?

I don’t care so much about citizen journalism as just observing ways in which media people are evolving their work. We are going to see professional and let’s say unpaid journalists, wind up working together and changing the way things happen.

We may see networks of newsrooms and individuals doing not only writing but research and fact checking. We are going to need a lot of help in the future detecting when there’s been a disinformation attack because we’ve already seen that on our site and on Wikipedia where people will try to propagate false information for their own gain. We saw that in the 1930s, we saw that same techniques used in Stalinist Russia and we’ve seen something similar in the last US presidential campaign.

How does Craigslist deal with say a revisionist organising an event and placing the details on your service?

Typically in the case of classified ads, people will flag that for removal and the way the flagging mechanism works is that if you flag something and other people agree with you, it is removed automatically. Things are more difficult in our discussion boards where people can flag things but it takes manual intervention to remove the items.

Sometimes I’ve had to deal with some ugly writing – the racism material and fraudulent material but that’s just life.

Have you had problems with neo-Nazis and anti-Semites?

Occasionally. I do see hatred now and then from all sides. I’ve seen two guys who are both Jewish but are full of hatred they provide fodder for anti-Semites and they are not receptive to reason at all. So now and then, I’ll just block them for a while.

What is your involvement with Israeli issues?

I feel it is incumbent upon Jews everywhere to help achieve peace there. The situation in Israel is connected to everything everywhere. Most peace groups I have observed in my time have been well meaning but ineffective.

I have joined one peace group which has the potential for being very effective, it’s called One Voice. These people are serious, they’ve engaged a lot of the community, government and media people in Israel and Palestine and they’ve done a lot of survey work asking thousands of Israelis and Palestinians what do you really want.

Everyone says they want a reasonable deal and they know they are going to compromise but they want peace. But they’re convinced the guys on the other side don’t want that. The problem may be more of perception than substance. There are substantial issues but the perception is the bigger problem.

We do need media in the Middle East pointing out the commonality interests of both sides. Unfortunately newspapers tend to cover dramatic events rather than basics.

What do you do for leisure time and hobbies?

I don’t believe in having fun, but what I will do is hang out with friends of mine in my favourite cafĂ© in my neighbourhood. I also enjoy, music, books and TV.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Blogger's Wisdom (not mine!)

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I heard from a fellow blogger the other day and she said something most eloquent. She is a writer as well as a blogger and had this to say:

"I've done a little copy editing here and there and really loved it, but I keep coming back to writing. I'm obsessed. It's like copy editing is the Nice Jewish Boy who'll treat me right and provide me with a respectable living, while writing is the hot, Latin lover who seduces me and then callously leaves me penniless. Sigh."

I loved her analogy. I also loved the reason she gave for why she started a personal blog:

"I started my personal blog because I couldn't afford therapy."

If you stop and think about your personal reasons for starting a blog, it might stem from that same reason, but might not have been a conscious thought in your decision. When you're telling us about aspects of your life, you are looking for the equivalent of listeners, or perhaps people who might give you confirmation that you seek, based on your words.

It's almost my first year blogiversary (next week, I'll have something posted on that), and as I review many of my posts, especially of the past six months, I've seen a pattern develop. In many ways it's not the best pattern, but I see it reflects me and an aspect of my personality that has been evident for years.

I have a tendency to reveal my weaknesses, my vices, the negative aspects of Pearl. But upon examining and suddenly being aware of the posts that reflect this, I realize that I do this for a reason. It's as if I'm hanging out a banner from my window saying, "THIS IS WHAT I'M ALL ABOUT. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT." I seem to reveal myself, so that nobody can come back later and point out those bad qualities; it's a way of saying, "I told you upfront, so you cannot complain later."

Hey, I just revealed this great aspect of myself, didn't I? There I go again...

If that blogger uses her blog as a tool for therapy, I guess it's not a far cry to figure that my blog is used in a similar way. Whether I'm ranting, questioning, doing creative writing or the like.

This past week, in a correspondence with a long-distance friend, I was talking about poetry and how to set up a poem on a page, ie. whether each line should start with a capital letter or not. I quickly wrote a poem as an example:

She wandered in and out
of the rooms.
Seeking not what she knew,
but what she didn't.

She was lost.
It was dark.

Time to give up
the good fight.

The friend was rather amazed that I made up that poem on the spur of the moment...and her comment made me examine the words more closely. I realized that my subconscious must have been talking as I typed the words -- "the rooms" refers to different blogs I visit. I'm "lost" when I visit political blogs. But I'm not quite sure what "the good fight" refers to -- perhaps commenting on other blogs?

Whatever the poem means, it seemed to speak to me, just as blogging does. Blogging speaks to me; I speak to you. That's what a good therapist/patient relationship is all about. And yes, blogging by the hour is definitely cheaper than psychotherapy by the hour!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blog Posts: The New "You Gotta See This" for the 21st Century

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I made an observation today after I was corresponding with an online, long-distance friend. Both of us had been following a rather heated post, the online back-and-forth between several bright people who were "discussing" Orthodoxy, Conservative and Reform Judaism, over at Seraphic Secret.

I didn't dare venture into that comments forum, in fear that I'd be eaten up and spit out, if I offered my humble opinion. The familiar lions were certainly all showing their claws, and I was content to sit in the audience and just watch and perhaps learn from the goings-on.

Anyhow, my friend wrote (and it wasn't instant messaging that we were doing, either; it's just that I refer to my e-mail messages often and am pretty much on top of things) and said something like: "You must go and check out the blog and see what comments have just been added and by whom."

It was as if my friend was calling me on the phone and saying, "Pearl, you've got to turn to Channel 13. Michael Feinstein is playing piano on 'American Classics' right now." Of course, I'd run and turn on the TV if I received such a message from her. And just in the same way did I quickly dash back over to Seraphic Secret to read what was happening, what was stirring the pot.

When people want you to check out another blog, they might link to it in their own blog, or just casually say "Go to such-and such and see what so-and-so has to say about such-and-such." I might stroll casually over to the recommended site. But this? Today? This was like a rushed phone call, and of course I had to rush to seek out the action.

Hey, maybe Michael Feinstein is reading this post, and blogging on his own: "Hey, folks, you've got to go right now to Pearlies of Wisdom. I got an honorable mention."

Wouldn't that be a wonder of wonders...?

Jagger Shows Me Who's Boss

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Sometime last week I posted about THE ROLLING STONES and the fact that they should no longer be on stage -- yes, they can fly like the wind, they can keep an audience on their feet for 2+ hours, they can roll in the dough. But they're older now, and not as pretty to look at. Such was my case.

Wouldn't you know it? Every day since that morning when I heard a Rolling Stones song on the car radio, which inspired me to write that particular post, I've been hearing at least one song of theirs during my 40 minute drive to work.

Okay, Mick, I get it. Yes, you've still got it. Yes, I was wrong to say what I did. No Boca Raton retirement village is setting up your living quarters; you've been scratched off of the shuffleboard team, your nighttime milk is getting cold. Go ahead, make me look bad to my reading audience. Yes, yes, I owe you an apology, yes, a public online apology. Okay, Mr. Jagger, I do declare I was wrong in my pronouncement. You are still number one. Your lips are a little too big for my liking, but you still manage to sing some A-1 songs via that mouth and those lips. I take back everything I said. You can still go on tour, come to Toronto pre-tour to polish up the act or record some songs, but just do me one favor: "Get off of my cloud!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Write Stuff

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I've never really had a problem with words. Yes, I've been shy -- and couldn't speak up -- but give me a piece of paper or a computer screen and let me at it. If I'm writing a letter, the words will tumble out, sometimes not fast enough. It's like I'm unwinding a spool of thread and seeing how far it'll take me.

You're probably like me -- finding it easier to transfer your thoughts onto paper than in person. Of course, you don't have to watch for facial expressions and body language when you write a note to someone. The physical distance that paper or screen allows adds a sense of ease when you try to get the words out. At least it does for me.

I was always a notorious letter writer, and like many of my blogs, my letters were detailed. People embraced those details, rather than roll their eyes and toss the letter aside. And when I couldn't keep up with lengthy letters, my regular recipients were most disappointed. Yes, letter writing has always come easy, yet, like keeping a journal or a blog, it becomes almost like a chore because you know that, although the words come easy, you still use your editing thought processes to work through your words, adding qualitative and quantitative time to the equation. And time is something you don't always have.

I thoroughly enjoy writing thank-you notes to people, and I guess it shows. When I wrote the handfuls of thank-you notes, after my engagement party, shower and wedding, I looked forward to doing so. I knew that a part of me would go into each note, my personal touch would be imprinted in each card; I wasn't writing a form-letter-style note; I was personalizing each one. Add that up for every simcha, and it takes a toll.

And with three children and countless bris and baby gifts, the thank-you notes were also countless. But once again, I made each word I wrote count; my words captured the gift and the person who gave it.

I've had family friends and my own friends come up to me YEARS LATER after they received a particular thank-you or all-occasion card or birthday card or a simple letter, and tell me that they still had such-and-such a card among their things because it was so special.

Knowing that makes me very happy indeed. Knowing that I put a smile on someone's lips...a smile that lingers long after the person initially read the card...pleases me to no end.

Sadly enough, I've had to write several condolence cards in the latter years. And just like I do with simcha cards, I personalize each card, telling the recipient what it was about that person that touched me and my life, even if I didn't know the person all that well. Sure, I can phone in a donation to some organization or good cause, and have them send out a sympathy card with a brief message from me, and I often do that, but I'd much rather write a note from the heart.

When I felt moved to write to the parents of a former classmate who passed away at the age of 27, I talked about the memories I had of her from when we were little. I even dug up a yearbook our class had made when we were in grade 4 and sent the parents a couple of pages that their daughter had designed, as well as the "My Impressions" page that someone had written then about their nine-year-old daughter.

Some years ago I designed an ad for myself that I considered running in the local Jewish newspaper: I was planning to call my business (even back then!) "Pearlies of Wisdom" and I was going to advertise speech writing and writing, specifically letter writing. For some people, letter writing is such a chore and something to avoid; for me, it's a pleasure, so I thought why not let some people take advantage of this opportunity. Unfortunately, I never went ahead with the ad because I had no clue what kind of rates I should charge for such services.

But if any of you have a business letter to write, a "Dear John" letter to compose, a wedding speech to come up with, a tribute to someone on a special anniversary or birthday, consider me and my Pearlies of Wisdom, 'cause I think I've got THE WRITE STUFF!

Minding the Message

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I am a pack rat! Once upon a time it was newspapers and ticket stubs, and tourist attraction brochures and all my old personal address books, all birthday cards, copies of letters I wrote to people, and the letters I received back. The list goes on and on. You'd think I grew up in a mansion, allowing space for all these "collectibles".

Then I became a pack rat of child-related material: pregnancy information, feeding information, day care information, then school related stuff. Saving things regarding children is not a bad thing...but when you save it three different ways, one per child, then you've got a problem.

These days I'm into modern technology pack-ratism: I keep files and files of correspondence I have with people -- both professionally and privately. You never know when you might need to retrace your online steps and track down some info you shared with others. I also have a bad habit of keeping phone messages in my system, and re-saving them again and again every two weeks when reminded, so I don't lose them.

Of course I don't keep EVERY phone message, but I have maintained several in my cache. And it's interesting because our message machine is internal, part of our Bell telephone service that we pay for. When we moved over two years ago, I'd already been saving messages on the system and had to figure out how to somehow transfer these messages to our new neighborhood, to our new area code and to our new phone number. I was so leery it wouldn't work and these messages were important to me. But they did, and I keep saving them.

1. The interesting message is from April 2000, from Frania Rubinek, actor Saul Rubinek's mother. She played in Avalon together with her husband, Israel; I then later saw her in January 2000 in Liberty Heights. I'd written to her in hopes of lining up an interview with her about her life: she was hidden in Poland during the war, she was an actress and had an actor son. Her phone call was a confirmation that she'd received my letter and would love to meet me.

Long story short, I never managed to reach her again, and a few weeks later, I read in the Jewish newspaper that she'd died...a day or two after she left me the message. For the longest time, I tried to contact Saul Rubinek, thinking that perhaps this was the last time his mom had spoken -- I have no clue if she had a heart attack, but it had to have been sudden -- and maybe he wanted to hear the message. I'm still wondering at that...

2. I have a message left on March 5, 2000 -- a friend of ours singing "Siman Tov un Mazel Tov" when he heard I gave birth for the 3rd time to a son, followed by a very warm and welcoming message.

3. I have a message from circa 2002, December, when that same friend put on an accent, that of an old Jewish lady (he did a good job of it too) and took on some fake name and was calling to wish my husband and I a happy anniversary.

4. I have my father's voice singing "Happy Birthday" to me.

5. I have my husband's and children's voices, as well as my mother's.

6. I have my mother-in-law wishing my husband a happy father's day.

7. I have positive feedback I've received for work well done.

People may read this and wonder, "Pearl seems a little weird...saving all those messages." But I have this to say: "In hindsight, don't you now wish you'd have saved some of your past phone messages? Aren't there voices you might've liked to hear again, some pleasant messages that you would've liked to hear again?"

So, next time, if ever, you choose to call me, please be sure to leave a message. And I'll make sure to save it!